Tell Me About... Software vs. Shareware

Find out the difference between the terms "software" and "shareware". Read all about it.
Published: Sep 14, 2006
Author: Michael E, Callahan
Related OS: Windows

Software vs. Shareware

by Michael E. Callahan aka Dr. File Finder

This question submitted by Bobby Sampson, Mary Wilson, Jack Watson,Debbie Panera, Wendy Braun, and numerous others

I've gotten all kinds of emails asking about the difference between"shareware" and "software". I can see by reading theseemails that there is serious confusion about the two terms. I'm hopingthat I can clear up that confusion today.

"Software" is a name given to computer programs anddifferentiate it from computer hardware. Software is compiledcode that helps the computer to perform specific tasks. The operatingsystem, like Windows or Linux, is system software that tells thecomputer how to behave in general. Application software would includethings like tex editors, word processors, spreadsheets, and lots more. Without software your computer would be slightly less useful than yourtoaster.

Software is created using higher level languages like C++,Visual Studio, Delphi, and others. In the early days of programming manyprogrammers used assembly language which created programs thatwere very small and fast. Application software interacts with yoursystem software and in many cases creates data.

"Shareware" is a marketing method for selling software.This method was devised in early 1982 by three men: Andrew Fleugelman,Jim Button, and Bob Wallace. At that time each of them called theconcept something else, but Bob Wallace was the one who coined the termshareware. The basic premise of shareware is that the user can"try before they buy." True shareware lets you evaluate theproduct for a period of time, usually without restrictions. After theevaluation period is up you either buy the software or you remove itfrom your computer.

The "shareware" marketing model has become so popular that intodays software market nearly all "software" companies utilize the"shareware" marketing model, though most don't refer to it as such. Youcan even look around and see other products that are using the "trybefore you buy" marketing model. For example, I saw a commercial for apiece of exercise equipment where you could pay $15 to have it sent toyour house for 30 days. If, at the end of that time, you haven'treturned it, you continue to pay for it. Very similar to shareware.

The key thing to remember is that shareware is not a special kindof software. It's simply software that's sold using the "try before youbuy" marketing model. Today this model is used by most companies. At the2006 Shareware Industry Awards, Microsoft, Adobe, Corel, and Google allwon awards. So, the face of "shareware" is changing.

If you'd like to read more about the men who created the sharewaremarketing concept you can read this article:

History Of Shareware -Part 2

I'd like to thank Bobby Sampson, Mary Wilson, Jack Watson,Debbie Panera, Wendy Braun, and numerous others for askingthis question.

If you have a question on any technology topic that you'd like someoneto tell you about you can submit it via email by clicking HERE You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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